How to Choose a Good Bird Dog Puppy
Spring is in the air, marking the prime time to add a new bird dog to your family. However, with so much information and advice on which breed makes the best hunting dog, the selection process can be downright overwhelming. When it comes to choosing your next bird dog breed, there’s much to consider. Here, Purina ambassadors and pro bird dog trainers Ronnie Smith of Ronnie Smith Kennels in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and Rick Smith of Huntsmith in Crozier, Virginia, offer their advice on choosing a compatible bird dog breed.
“As a bird dog trainer, I see an array of hunters with various breeds hunting different types of game,” says Ronnie Smith. “I’m often asked which breed is the best, but there’s no surefire answer.”
First, consider your hunting goals. If you want your bird dog to pick up downed game, choose a retrieving breed. If hunting duck in the morning and pheasant in the afternoon is important to you, you may want to choose a versatile breed. Likewise, think about where you’ll be hunting. For example, if you’re going to hunt in south Texas, you may choose short-coated breed such as an English Pointer, or if you live in northern Minnesota, you might want a long-coated breed like an English Setter.
Temperament also is paramount. Select a breed that fits your personality and is suitable to your lifestyle. “Ideally, there should be an understanding between you and your dog,” Ronnie Smith explains. “If you’re more alpha, you don’t want a passive dog, and vice versa, if you’re more passive, you don’t want an alpha-minded dog.”
Similarly, you’ll want to choose a breed that can turn it on and turn it off if he or she is also to be living in the house as a member of the family. “Consistency is key with your dog and your family,” says Ronnie Smith. “If a dog is to be obedient in the field, he or she also needs to be obedient in the house. It’s up to you and all members of your household to reinforce that.”
Still having trouble narrowing down a bird dog breed? “The Internet is not a reliable source. Go to field trials and other sporting dog club events to see different breeds of bird dogs. This will give you a first-hand look at which breed may be the best application to you and your family and will facilitate the type of hunting you’re looking to do,” he advises.
Once you settle on a breed that will best suit your needs, it’s time to diligently search for the right bloodline, rather than make a hasty decision.
“This is not the time or place to cut corners. Do your research, seek recommendations from people you trust, and go to a reputable breeder,” Rick Smith advises. “You get what you pay for. A good breeder will give you a good dog to work with.”
Once you find a proven, reputable breeder known for strong bloodlines, talk to your breeder about what you’re after so he or she can make a recommendation on a particular litter and pup. Go to the breeder’s kennel to see the pups in person, as well as their sire and dam, if possible.
“You want a dog that’s built right and moves easily to withstand a day of hunting. You’ll be able to tell what you’ll get by watching the sire and dam,” he explains.
When it comes to picking a pup from a litter, Rick Smith recommends picking them up and handling them to get an idea for their temperament, however, as long as you’ve chosen a reputable breeder with a solid breeding, it really comes down to chance.
“My best piece of advice is to take a quarter, flip it, take that pup home and don’t look back,” he says. “You’ll have as much success with that pup as you would stressing over how to pick the ‘best’ one.”